Goodbye, June

letters-to-charles:

“Honey, just apologize to him. Just tell him you’re sorry.” My mother pleaded with me. 

“Why do I always have to apologize! Why do I always have to be the bitch that crawls for everyone!” I bellowed, my angry belied by the tears welling up in my eyes. 

“Please, do it for me. I don’t want our family to be any more broken. Please.” She pulled my hands into hers, entreating me as her frail voice held back sobs. 

“Fine.” I pulled my hands from her grasp and marched into the living room, now filled with the entire family as witnesses. I pause for a second, staring my brother in the eyes—hatred at his existence. 

“You’re a lowlife bitch and you wonder why no on likes you.” I sneered at him. 

In an instant, he was up with arms swinging at my face. 

Earlier in the evening, the entire family both immediate and extended had gathered for an impromptu reunion. There were lots of friends and relatives who needed to be greeted after years. The food was great and the drinks plenty. But that was how the problem started—too many drinks. 

Alcohol and my brother has always been a disaster. He has a very violent temper which once in a while will burst out in extremely destructive manners. We had always thought his ex was the problem but then we found out the truth one night when she called in a panic in the dead of night. 

Please, please, please come get me. He hit me and I’m scared. 

We were appalled. How does one react? When you find out your brother is an abuser? My family apologized and pleaded with her to leave him for her sake and she did. He was heartbroken, he knew what he did was wrong, but he wouldn’t own up to it, he wouldn’t say the words. 

Then it happened again, this time, he slapped my brother-in-law in front of his family. Knowingly doing so not so much to inflict physical harm but to humiliate in front of peers. The reason being that he felt our brother-in-law had insulted his pet dog. The great irony of the situation, though, was that he was living rent free at the grace of our brother-in-law because he was homeless. 

Returning, to the aforementioned evening. This time, he wasn’t even drunk, he was sober as can be probably in an attempt to prevent his anger from appearing. I, on the other hand, was enjoying my drinks.

Perhaps in a perverse performance of self-projection, my brother decided I had imbibed enough and began to forcefully demand verbally and physically that I leave. This despite the fact that I was in full control of myself and was not causing trouble, which is not surprising because I unlike him do not have a history of drunk disturbances. 

I refused. He then slapped me and tore my earrings from my ear. 

The room went silent. I was shocked. I was humiliated. I didn’t know what to think but then overwhelming anger consumed me. I launched myself at him hoping to wring the last breath out of his body with my hands. 

That night was a shit show. I came out of it bloody, ashamed for my family, and with a crashed car. I wasn’t the winner in the situation but at least he wasn’t either. 

But what makes me saddest of all is that my family expects me to apologize. Be the bigger person, do this for us, you’re right and he’s wrong but just say sorry. 

But for once, I don’t want to be the bigger person. Let him rot. 

Dear tumblr, I have decided to start writing again. I realized that I miss the space here and in the words of life-in-grayscale the reassurance that we are not alone in our fortunes and misfortunes. It easy to forget that the world does not revolve around oneself. Tumblr, thus becomes a stage where we lay out our diaries and find communal comfort in anonymous catharsis. 

He has a very violent temper which once in a while will burst out in extremely destructive manners.

We had always thought his ex was the problem but then we found out the truth one night when she called in a panic in the dead of night.

When we’re bystanders to family and intimate partner violence, it’s often done to people we care about and/or committed by people we care about. In the latter case, the challenge is to hold aggressors accountable in a way that stops their violence and helps them grow out of their abusive behaviors.

We were appalled. How does one react? When you find out your brother is an abuser? My family apologized and pleaded with her to leave him for her sake and she did. He was heartbroken, he knew what he did was wrong, but he wouldn’t own up to it, he wouldn’t say the words.

Then it happened again, this time, he slapped my brother-in-law in front of his family.

Holding people we care about accountable can be difficult, and it’s easier as bystanders (e.g. friends and family) to maintain silence or denial to “keep the peace”. As this story illustrates, a consequence of this choice is that it enables the aggressor to continue or escalate violence, endangering survivors and even other bystanders. This is what’s at stake.

And to bring this back to @letters-to-charles’s post featured earlier this week:

A few things I’m learning

1. I don’t have to be nice to everyone
2. I don’t have to forgive
3. I am my body’s best advocate and I choose to love it

letters-to-charles’s refusal to apologize after the way his brother attacked him was absolutely the right reaction. But the question remains: when the rest of us are bystanders to violence or a volatile situation created by a friend, family member, or acquaintance, how might we intervene to de-escalate it, protect the people targeted by it, and change the conditions that enabled it?

– Ethan

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